How to handle the tougher grading system at a 4-year college

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By Julianne Mosher

Campus News

The end of the semester is near, and you’re itching to get your latest report card. Some of you may be freshmen, some may be transfers and some may be super-seniors who have seen 10 different report cards in your college lifetime. Despite what you may be dealing with, the day the report card is released is one that can be anxiously terrifying.

There is often a stigma that many transfer college students have in which they feel that their time at community college was easy compared to when they moved to a four-year university.

“My grades in community college gave me confidence that I could actually do well in college,” Patricia Soberano, a junior at Stony Brook University, said. “Here, I’m struggling to keep the motivation to keep on going, but now I’m in too deep to give up.”

Soberano, like some students, excelled at their time in community college. The journalism major, dance minor said that she left Queensborough Community College with a 3.5 GPA but received a 2.3 GPA at the end of her first semester at Stony Brook University.

“I had to adapt to Stony Brook – not only academically but living situation wise,” she said. “I dorm. When you’re home you only have to worry about school and home life. When you dorm, you have to worry about that on top of a new social playground, the responsibility of taxing yourself mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.”

Her transfer from living at home and attending a small college was a change. “The transition was one that I wasn’t ready for and there’s no way anyone could really be ready for,” she said. “High school was a joke and community college was a warm-up for all of this.

“One slip and you can be kicked out of your major,” she added.

Holly Lavelli and Chiara DeRiso felt the same way when they transferred from one State University of New York to another.

DeRiso is currently a junior at Stony Brook University but originally attended SUNY Cortland for psychology when she graduated from high school. She says that certain life events made her want to change her major and essentially transfer to Stony Brook University to study health science.

“At Cortland, I had an easy 3.36 GPA with minimum effort and at Stony Brook, I’m at like, a 2.8,” she says.
“I was pretty disappointed. I worked twice as hard here than I ever did at Cortland,” she added. “I should’ve stayed with psych, it would’ve been easier.”

Lavelli, also a health science major at Stony Brook University, had a similar situation. She began her education at SUNY New Paltz as a graphic design major but decided to switch and transfer to Stony Brook realizing that she did not love graphic design for a career like she did for a hobby.

Despite several different struggles during her first semester at SBU including severe anxiety and the change in culture from New Paltz compared to SBU, Lavelli was able to bring her grades up to the Dean’s List.

However, the following semester was not as lucky for the health science major as her GPA dropped.

“I thought I had gotten used to Stony Brook’s way of teaching, and the workload, but with an added factor of a bad breakup and a lot of other drama, I wound up going under a 3.0. The lowest grades I’ve ever had in my life,” she said.

“I had always dealt with stress in my life, and I was always a good student, but when I came to Stony Brook, it was such a different environment than what I was used to at New Paltz,” she said. “I felt like I was suffocating in work, and when I wasn’t working I was suffocating in guilt of not doing work.”

Lavelli feels that the curriculum at this university is intense, making it hard to be involved with clubs, organizations and work study even though she forces herself through it.

“Being at Stony Brook, I’ve never studied so hard in my life. I’m now in three clubs, I tutor students at the Academic Success and Tutoring Center on campus, and I’m the Art Director of a campus magazine,” she says. “It sounds like so much, but honestly, I still feel like I’m not doing enough… and I feel like that’s always how it’s going to be while I’m here.”

Despite the arguments that community colleges and certain other colleges are “easier” or do not have high expectations as some universities do, Joy Roberts, a senior studying social work at Adelphi University, says that her transition from community college to a university was easy.

Roberts started off at Nassau Community College after she graduated high school in 2010. She says that her time at NCC was time well spent and she thinks that she learned a lot while she was there.

“I don’t believe my education is necessarily better than it was while I was at NCC,” she says. “In fact, I felt as if I was more advanced when I transferred to Adelphi compared to the students who were at Adelphi their entire college careers.

“NCC taught us things that we’re just learning now in our grad classes,” she added.

However, Roberts does not feel that her education at the community college was no better nor worse than university. She says her professors were just as qualified at NCC and thinks that education solely depends on the professors at the institution.

Her first semester as a transfer into Adelphi was a nice transition and she says that she was very happy with her grades. “I achieved a B or better in all my classes,” she says. “Honestly, since Adelphi is a university, I felt very proud that I was able to accomplish such good grades my first semester.”

Overall the report card is always going to be a scary thought for any college student. Transfer student or not, approaching the change in scenery is the main focus in order to succeed.

Katie Briscoe-Baum, the director of advising and testing at Suffolk County Community College, gave some advice about how she thinks students should handle the change in grading.

“My advice to any transfer student would be simple: Assess what study strategies worked or didn’t work during your two-year experience, and make study time the centerpiece of your game plan.”

She continues, “This means finding the right balance between class time, study time, work and social time.

“The degree of difficulty in your courses will vary, as will the instructor’s teaching style, work load, and expectations. It’s always a matter of being flexible and making appropriate adjustments in your new environment so as to maximize your learning and performance.”

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